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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois



Community integration: Your right to live in the communityBoy with down syndrome and girl laughing and smiling

Institutional living used to be the norm for people with disabilities.  Because of changing attitudes and stronger legal protections, more people with disabilities live in the community.

Community living can work for everyone, regardless of the type or severity of disability.  People with mental illness, developmental disabilities and physical disabilities, including people with extremely severe disabilities, can live successfully in the community.

Community living has many benefits for people with disabilities and helps to increase diversity.

Your legal right to be integrated in the community with nondisabled people

Stronger laws allow people to receive services in the community. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires states to offer services in the “most integrated setting.”  In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregating people with disabilities in institutions is a form of discrimination.  As a result of these changes in attitude and in the law, more people with disabilities are living in the community.

Community living can work for everyone

Regardless of the type or severity of disability, community living can work for everyone.  People with mental illness, developmental disabilities and physical disabilities, including people with extremely severe disabilities, can live successfully in the community.  Every type of service that can be provided in an institution can be provided in the community, often at lower cost and higher quality. These include:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Nursing
  • 24-hour support or supervision
  • Vocational training

A wide variety of settings is available in the community, including:

  • Apartments
  • Shared living
  • Group homes

People who choose to remain in the family home with parents or other relatives can have services brought into their homes.

Although Illinois lags behind most states in providing home and community services, it is moving in a very positive direction.  More people are living integrated lives in the community.

The benefits of community living

People with disabilities generally have the same wants and needs as nondisabled people, such as:

  • Choosing who they want to live with
  • Having private space
  • Socializing with friends and family
  • Choosing what and when to eat
  • Hiring people they like to help them with activities of daily living
  • Decorating their living space
  • Doing work (paid and volunteer) that they enjoy
  • Attending community events
  • Having guests over
  • Choosing when to go to sleep and when to wake up

Unfortunately, institutional living does not give people with disabilities the freedom to satisfy these needs.  Moving into the community can open up a whole new world by allowing them:

  • To choose where and with whom they live
  • The ability to see friends and family more often
  • Work opportunities
  • The opportunity to develop new hobbies
  • The opportunity to participate in the life of the community by going to the library, restaurants, concerts, and other public venues


Green circle clip art with the word MORE written inside it.

Last updated: May 19, 2020

This website is made possible by funding support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.

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